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Session Descriptions

 With more to come!

Finding the Heart of the Story in Research -  Sheila Ingle


A Genre-Bending Manuscript: How to Pitch a Duck Out of Water! -  Alan Winter


Changing Perceptions of Selfhood—Matching Character to Historical Period -  David Corbett

Although it is sometimes remarked that historical novels are always in truth about the present—and bear the inescapable preoccupations and presumptions of the era in which they are published—this needn’t, and arguably shouldn’t, be so. 

Although research often focuses on physical and sociological facts of the period in question—where did people live, what did they wear, what work did they do, how did they eat, who could marry whom, how did they move about, how did they talk, who had power, who was enslaved—another subtler, deeper question asks: How did they conceive of the human condition? What did it mean to be an “I”?

Award-winning author and teacher David Corbett will guide students through a brief account of selfhood as revealed in Western storytelling techniques from Homer to the present day, with particular focus on:

• The transition from the Homeric to the Tragic hero: fate vs. will.
• The moral types of Theophrastus and Plutarch.
• The codification of the soul in Platonic philosophy and Christianity.
• The emergence of realism during the Renaissance and its fulfillment in the humanistic tradition
• The Freudian revolution.
• The human condition as existential problem, from Kafka to Kundera.

In each instance, the class will explore how a given period’s concept of selfhood can be used to enhance verisimilitude in characterization in historical fiction.

Creating Historical Fiction: The Union of the Novelist with the Historian -  Thomas Ott

How many times have you picked up a work of historical fiction only to be disappointed? More often than not, the historical base of the novel was weak, incorrect, or missing altogether.  Or was it so poorly written that you lost interest? And yet, historical fiction in the right balance of the historian's craft with the novelist's art can be beautiful. Margaret Walker Alexander's JUBILEE illustrates the results of this balance. It is about the slave and freedman's odyssey of Vyry, the author's great-grandmother in Georgia and Alabama.  I used JUBILEE in my college classes for years, and my students loved it. Colleen McCullough's historical novels about ancient Rome further demonstrates the balance between sound research and skillful writing.

I 'll discuss several works of historical fiction, and whether they meet the test of a good balance between the two disciplines. I'll speak about my own research efforts to build a historical foundation for SATURDAY & THE WITCH WOMAN and my acquiring novelist's skills to write the story. I based Saturday's story on 75 primary sources before I used fiction to sew it together.

Cross That Finish Line: Productivity for Writers -Nancy Kotkin


This session examines effective goal-setting, accountability methods, and the important relationship  between the two. Both are necessary to increase output and then sustain those results. We will
consider productivity processes and review a variety of online and off-line tools and techniques specifically for writers.

As a result of this session, participants will:
1) Understand that both goal-setting and an accountability system are necessary to be productive.
2) Master how to set SMART goals, and break them down into achievable steps.
3) Learn accountability methods and be able to select the best approach for their individual circumstances and needs.
4) Be acquainted with online and off-line productivity tools for writers.
5) Recognize that both goals and accountability techniques must be evaluated periodically and altered with changing conditions.

Discovery Through Multigenre Writing: How to Use Poetry and Playwriting to Develop Characterization, Conflict, & Plot in Fiction - Kristin Leonard

In this seminar, we will examine how poetry and playwriting can help writers uncover the essence of real and imagined characters and the stories they live in. Using the real experience of constructing a novel, set within a finite time in United States History, we will analyze how a seemingly insignificant moment or detail, expressed in the emotionality of poetic form, can inspire fictional characters to speak and respond. Likewise, we will look closely at the language of playwriting and the condensed characterization of dialogue and dramatic action which can bring another dimension to our story.  We will discuss ways to harness the complimentary language of poetry, playwriting, and prose to create characters that come to life, and better align with historical timelines.

Explore and Enliven History Through Poetry - Vernita Hall

This presentation discusses strategies used by this author to create the award-winning collection of poems Where William Walked: Poems About Philadelphia and Its People of Color, based on stories from Philadelphia history.

The poet shares considerations with which she grappled in trying to re-create history as a living, relevant source of inspiration and learning, a teaching tool for today’s youth, a re-introduction to characters—both heroic and despicable—whose experiences and lessons must not be forgotten.

She describes necessary storytelling decisions, such as the selection of a key moment in an historic event and a narrator’s point of view; the use of a writer’s tools of humor, wit, dialogue, and character development; the artist’s craft choices with imagery, language, and structure. Linkages among disparate events can generate thought-provoking insights. Biography and autobiography are a treasure trove in the formation of vivid, evocative, and memorable portraits, and discovered online sources for out-of-print books proved an invaluable resource.

She will read examples from her book and explain how these decisions coalesced into creation of the poems and shaped the overall manuscript structure. She will describe several of the characters and how their experiences compelled her poetic inspiration.

Flies Buzz in an Information Dump -Guy Cote

The real trick for any novelist, particularly those who incorporate history in their writing, is to know how to disseminate information, and at what pace to do so. The easiest way to lose a reader is to simply dump information upon them, be it back story or a dump of historical facts. This session will discuss the difference between a dump and a contextual setting. It will share novelistic  strategies which will enable a writer to share information with a reader in such a way that he/she will feel entertained rather than lectured to. This talk will also ingrain the following mantra in the minds of its attendees: DO NOT LET RESEARCH TAKE THE PLACE OF WRITING. ALL THAT MATTERS IS STORY, STORY, AND STORY.

Give Your Characters Voice: Bring your Readings to life! - Barbara Salvatore

While creating characters and spinning stories, writers occupy the mind, body and spirit of others. I aim to demonstrate ways to make your characters real, at public readings or in video. 

We must hook listeners, so they will remember the human stories we pass on. 
Learn to:
-Deal with stage fright and nerves. Get beyond the stage.  
-Free yourself from monotone delivery, and the fear of being judged. 
-Give your characters voice, posture, body movements, unique to them.
-Vary tone and pace, build suspense, hook your audience, engage your listeners.
-Use simple props, gestures, and choices of clothing.

Historic and Fantastic Trees in America - Betsy Iversen

When it comes to the flora and fauna of our country, trees are among its most magnificent members. The landscape of the United States, whether it includes mountains, deserts, forests, swamps, or even the White House lawn, is often defined by its trees. 

This presentation will highlight some of the most famous trees in our country and include a story or two, such as Washington's mythical cherry tree, and some trees planted on the White House lawn, including Andrew Jackson's magnolia tree that had to be cut down last year. A story or two about Lincoln cutting down the trees of his youth would be mentioned as well. Learn about trees that are indigenous to different parts of the country. For instance, the joshua tree and bristlecone pine tree are found in the West, and the magnolia and southern oak indigenous to the South. Important details about setting is often the types of trees in the region.

Included in the talk will be how the National Parks protect some of the most famous members in this category. These would include those named for Presidents (Harding, Washington, and more) and generals (Grant, Sherman) in the Giant Forest of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Redwood National Park protects massive masterpieces as well. Learn how those trees received their names and the details about them.

Historical Middle Grade Novels: Educational Yet EntertainingNancy Kotkin

Often referred to as “the golden age of reading,” children aged 9-12 have their reading skills intact, yet their imaginations are still quite active. Novels for this age group share many characteristics with
adult novels, but there are some important differences as well. Many of the Newbery medal winners are historical fiction, a favorite genre with middle grade readers and especially parents, librarians, and
teachers due to the blend of reliable information and attention-grabbing stories. This session presents a genre study of middle grade historical fiction.

How Far Can a Horse Walk in a Day? - Mary Ann Trail

Characters in historical novels do not stay in one place. Sometimes they need to race after kidnappers, prevent some other skullduggery or even travel for fun! No matter the era, the question of how do you move characters from place to place with historical accuracy is important. Correct presentation of the geography our characters find themselves in, lends an authenticity to our work that our readers enjoy and actually look for. In this presentation, I will demonstrate a couple of primary sources I use, to lend accuracy to my novels. I will then present some sources attendees can use in their own research.

My current series is set amid the chaos of the early the 19th Century in England, 1801. In the beginning of my research, I was struck by how many English men and women of the 18th and 19th centuries were far from the stay-at-homes I pictured them. Many traveled annually to London for the social life, their sons traveled often on the European continent for education and many traveled for just the same reasons people travel today, to see the sights, to enjoy the picturesque! Even the middle class characters in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, take off for a visit to the Lake District. But how did they know what road to take? How did they plan their stops, decide which inns to frequent, and places to change their horses? 

In addition to presenting the usefulness of many primary sources, I intend to demonstrate how to utilize some databases that will allow the researcher to find their own materials even if they do not have access to major libraries.

Iatromathematics: The Eighth Liberal Art - Marlo Ashley

This session examines the structure of the university curriculum through the teaching practices of professors in England and Vienna in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. The Medieval and Renaissance scientific worldview maintains that medical astrology is a crucial and primary medical tool, but the undergraduate liberal arts education does not provide the space to study iatromathematics. University professors hesitate to teach medical astrology at the undergraduate level at a time where a medical degree requires prerequisite knowledge on it. Presently, iatromathematics is swallowed up by the seven liberal arts, left for extraordinary lectures, or placed in board games played by students because there is no suitable spot in the curriculum to study the fundamentals of a medical graduate degree at the undergraduate level. The undergraduate liberal arts curriculum is hindered when medical astrology, an essential aspect to medicine, is not properly discussed. Additionally, by avoiding the topic, professors inflame the ignorance of popular medicine and threaten medical astrology and its capacity to provide medical aid. Iatromathematics is a necessary field of study that is overlooked and does not receive the credit it deserves in the Medieval and Renaissance worldview. An eighth liberal art, iatromathematics, would benefit undergraduate students, especially those pursuing a graduate medical degree. 

The paper helps understand an aspect of medieval history. As a writer, it is important to gather evidence for historical issues and come up with a solution to historical problems. A historian writes a narrative that helps the reader understand the context of the historical environment.  

Language and Culture: The Seed of Language  - Barbara Salvatore

In addition to the goal common to all fiction—to tell a gripping story featuring compelling characters—historical fiction aims to transport a reader back in time. In this dynamic and interactive talk, we'll examine the strategies some of the great historical novelists of the past and present have used to achieve this special method of time travel. We'll finish up with a brief writing exercise introducing a surprisingly practical way to incorporate historical world-building techniques into your writing. 

Letting Your Subject Find You - Deborah A. Green
Making the Leap from Military Writing to Historical Nonfiction - Eileen Bjorkman

My Book is Written, Now What? Understanding Today’s Publishing Options - Randy Kuckuck
Plants Are Characters Too! - Barbara Salvatore
Screenwriting: How to Adapt your Story for the Screen - Dorothea Bonneau 
Self-Publishing – How to Do it Right! -  Randy Kuckuck
Stories from the Home Front - Sandra O'Connell 
Story Story Story -  David Marlett
Story to Stage: Tools for Aspiring Playwrights and Fiction Writers - Dorothea Bonneau
The “Good Bad Man”—The American West’s Contribution to Antihero History - David Corbett
 The Misadventures of a Newly Published Author - Lory Jones
The Romanovs in Historical Fiction: Revolution and Popular Imagination - Tamar Anolic 
Truth in the Law - David Marlett
Turn, Turn, Turn: Writing Lessons from Songwriting's Structural Masters - Ugly Cousin Brothers 
What Did You Do in the War, Granny? Why US WW2 HIStory should include more HERstory - Barb Warner Deane
Writing about Family Roots - Melissa W. Hunter 
Writing Across Genres: Chinese-Mexican Ties and Chinese Expulsion from Mexico in Nonfiction and Fiction - Julia María Schiavone Camacho 
Writing Biography as Creative Nonfiction - Christina Larocco